The former Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) HS Brahma has said that Assam cannot have both National Register of Citizens (NRC) with midnight of March 24 as the cut-off date and the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 as both will “contradict each other”.
A report published in the The Assam Tribune quoted Brahma as saying that the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill would be contradictory to the NRC. He said that the Government should make it clear whether it would like to have the NRC or the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill. He pointed out that the Bill would go against the NRC and if the Government wants to have the NRC; it should not even think of passing the Bill in the Parliament. At the same time, Brahma said that he is against the Bill as Assam has already taken the burden of foreigners who came to India up to the midnight of March 24, 1971 and it would not be possible for the State to take any more burdens of foreigners. If the Government of India is keen on passing the Bill, Assam should be excluded from it, he said.
The report further quoted the former CEC as saying that the final NRC would identify the genuine Indian citizens and foreigners living in Assam. The effort should be to deport the foreigners living in Assam and if deportation of large number of foreigners is not possible, then they (foreigners) should be stripped of their voting rights and they should be asked to apply for work permits. He also said that long-term work permits should not be given to anyone and the term of such work permits should not be more than couple of years and those should be renewed after proper checking.
Brahma said that the electoral rolls should also be amended on the basis of the NRC. “As per the Constitution of India, only Indian citizens have the right to exercise their franchise and as there are allegations of inclusion of names of large number of foreigners in the electoral rolls of Assam, those should be revised as per the NRC immediately after it is published,” he added.
Brahma said that the Election Commission (EC) gives the guidelines for revision of the electoral rolls and the work is carried out by the district election officers under the guidance of the Chief Electoral Officers of the respective States. If due care is not taken to check the nationality and other criteria laid down by the Election Commission, there is possibility of inclusion of name of foreigners in the electoral rolls. He said that there is provision in the law to punish the officers responsible for inclusion of names of persons not eligible to be voters in the electoral rolls and the concerned State Governments should take action against such officers.
Brahma further pointed out that there is provision for filing objections if names of foreign nationals are included in the electoral rolls. But unfortunately, hardly any person or organisation files any objection, he added.